Bahai News -- The Oregonian - Extending an invitation to join a daunting, devoted conspiracy
Extending an invitation to join a daunting, devoted conspiracy
T his is almost crazy, almost unbelievable. But it's real. Women and men of wildly different faiths are gathering around a table on another Thursday morning,
perhaps as you are reading this. They are part of a conspiracy. I sit with them.
Sitting across the table from me today -- again -- is a warm, smiling bear of a man. He's not only a Christian but a conservative Christian. Religiously, the
distance between his faith and my faith is greater than the distance between the Earth and the moon. My faith, Unitarian Universalism, began at the time of
Luther and Calvin. Originally, we were a very liberal version of Christian faith. Now we include a Christian perspective but long ago chose to become a
Historically, this man and I would be suspicious of each other. And in terms of religious faith, maybe we still are. But this man and I have been sitting at
this table for two years. I like him. I respect him. I know I can count on him to follow through. I know the community problems he cares about and what he does
about them. I've seen his heart. So I gladly join with him in this conspiracy.
The woman on my right is a Jew, a natural and official leader with a captivating song in her voice. The woman on her right is a great friend of mine, a
liberal Christian pastor. She got me into this. There are several more Christian leaders of various stripes; a Roman Catholic priest is there almost without
The man on my left is a Mormon and a skillful event organizer. The woman on his left is Baha'i, whose people know present-day persecution. Next to the
meeting's moderator is a respected Islamic leader who has been through much since 9/11. And on the other side of the moderator is a Scientologist; we've all
come to count on her dependable work. At least a baker's dozen of us. You get the picture. We've been meeting like this for two years.
There are some serious human problems in this grandest of Oregon's counties. Six hundred to 1,000 homeless folks spend their nights in the woods, any given
night, some of them children. We listened in spellbound silence as one of them, one who made his way out, talked to us months ago. But he's only one and that's
only one of the problems.
Children and parents are falling hard through some big holes in our social network. Or they've been downsized onto the streets by corporate decisions
outside their control. Failures in medical assistance, failures in dental assistance. Disability stories. Elder stories. The stories can make you cry if you
aren't careful, even turn you into a bleeding heart conservative.
You already know the tips of the problems, because you read the snippets of stories in this newspaper. They make good copy. They make ugly and awful
reality. You already know, but like us, you probably don't know the full brunt of the reality. It's daunting.
Washington County officials, health care professionals, nonprofit leaders, hospice workers and more have taken this motley crew of religious leaders down
below the tips of those problems. Down to the larger anguish. Down to the darker fears. Down to the quiet despairs. They've showed us the depth and breadth of
They've stunned us into silence. They've plied us with encouragement. They've asked, "Do you think you and your congregations can help? On a grand scale?
Because we need something on a grand scale."
And we, the conspirators, we are now not anguishing. We are now not in despair. For the past two years we have been religiously setting aside our religious
differences. We have listened, we have talked, and we have listened some more. There's a passion for action now. A plan has begun to hatch.
No one of us or of our faith groups can act on a grand scale. But each of us and each of our faith groups can act on a small but coordinated scale. In words
I've learned from a Buddhist, each of us can light up one corner of the world. Put our small lights side by side, like the small bulbs on a string of holiday
lights, and we can make a grand difference, we can be a great light.
On Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 8:30 a.m., at the Kingstad Meeting Center (15440 S.W. Millikan Way), you can join this healthy conspiracy. Registration deadline
is Oct. 10. If you are clergy or a lay leader in your church, synagogue, mosque, meeting or temple, please come. Come for all or just part of the day.
The cost is small: $8. The impact is profoundly large. Come and be stunned by the challenge. And come, be stunned and lifted up by the possibility. You can
now change the large, ugly realities in a large way. The Rev. Mark Hoelter is parish minister of Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Hillsboro. You can
contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Faith Forum is presented by the Inter-Religious Action Network and the Vision Action Network of Washington County. Details
are available at www.visionactionnetwork.org, or by contacting Emily Gottfried at 503-295-6761 or email@example.com; or Wes Taylor at 503-692-1820 or
©Copyright 2003, The Oregonian (OR, USA)
Following is the URL to the original story. The site may have removed or archived this story. URL:
Return to: UGA Baha'i Association's Home Page
Baha'i News Archives' Index
This page was designed by Sohayl Moshtael suggestions, and news submissions are welcome, and
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the
University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
Page last updated/revised 031009